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👋 Hi! Tell us about yourself and your training
My name is Alexa Towersey AKA Action Alexa. I’m 41 but I had my blood cells tested and they were 29 so I’m rolling with that.
I was born in Scotland to a military family – my Dad was a Major and my Mum was a medic in the British Army – so I went to Military School in England, Ireland and Germany until I was 10 years old and we moved to NZ.
I was bullied at school for being too skinny – my nickname was Alexa Annorexa – so my fitness journey began at 15 when I started going to the gym on a mission for muscles. But it wasn’t until I was 17, and I intervened in my Mum’s suicide attempt, that I truly began to understand the connection between physical strength, and the mental toughness that goes with it.
The gym was my sanctuary, my safe place, the first place I felt like I had any control over my life and this gift of empowerment that I found early on, is something I want to pay forward every single day.
My mantra, “When I feel physically strong, I think strong thoughts”, drives everything I do. For me as a PT, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing someone become empowered in their training and then watching how this translates into their attitude towards the rest of their life.
I graduated University with a Bachelor of Science, double majoring in Biology and Psychology. I then continued on with a post graduate diploma in Sports Management and Kinesiology.
All through university, I wrestled with the Mania Sportsfighting Academy, excelled as a Linebacker and Wide Receiver for a NZ Womens' Champion Gridiron team - The Tamaki Lightning – and played soccer at a representative level.
In 2007 I accepted a job in Hong Kong, where I attained my NASM qualification, completed in house internships with Poliquin, Merinovich, Gray Cook and Martin Rooney, and headed up the Strength and Conditioning division for a top MMA gym.
1 year later, I was voted in the Top 3 Toughest Trainers in Asia. This was enough to gain me the coveted position of challenge host for the Malaysian based top model franchise TV show – “Supermodel me – Sirens”.
Not one to be satisfied with being "comfortable", I began looking for a new challenge and decided to compete in Half Ironman 70.3, hiring a coach to teach me to swim.
It was at this time that I came across Gym Jones, and fell in love with the "Mind is Primary" philosophy.
I saw this as the edge I needed to get ahead and 2 years later, I qualified for the 70.3 World Champs on a broken foot. 7 years later, I became the first female Gym Jones Fully Certified Instructor in Australia and only the second female worldwide.
I’m currently the fitness guru for Maxim Magazine and the host of Maxim Fitness TV and the Head Trainer for Strong Fitness Magazine where I write a bimonthly column mental health focused column, “Living Strong with Lex.”
The best yet hardest decision I ever made was to quit drinking following my Dad’s death via liver cirrhosis as a direct consequence of being an alcoholic. It’s been over 11 years and I haven’t touched a drop.
⏱ Describe a typical day of training
The way my body responded to training in my 20’s is totally different to how it responds now.
Back in those days I loved “yang” style high volume and high intensity. These days I’m much healthier, happier AND LEANER when I’m combining “yin” style training with stress management techniques (yoga, pilates, calisthenics, power walking, infra red saunas).
In my 30’s I was diagnosed with degenerative osteoarthritis in my left hip and over the space of 8 months, I went from being an athlete to someone who couldn’t even get out of bed unassisted or walk across a room without crutches.
I was advised by 5 orthopaedic surgeons that I had no alternative but to get a full hip replacement or I wouldn’t walk again. On August 12th 2017 I went in for surgery, had an anaphylactic reaction to my antibiotics, and flatlined. I had to be resuscitated 4 times.
I spent a week in ICU on a breathing tube. 3 months later, I got my new hip, but my injury changed the way I looked at my training.
These days my training is focused more on recovery and stress management. I do structured strength training 2 x week, pilates 3-4 x week and I walk every day. Movement is my number 1 self care strategy.
👊 How do you keep going and push harder?
There is a difference between motivation and discipline. I can guarantee you won’t always be motivated to train, but you don’t need to be.
Motivation doesn’t get you results, discipline does. Day in and day out, you just need to turn up and get the work done.
If motivation is an ongoing struggle for you, I suggest taking before and after photos (visual progress is a powerful intrinsic motivator), finding a good pre-workout that will pump you up (a shot of espresso is simple and effective), downloading a new playlist, and/or visualizing yourself and how good you’ll feel after you finish.
🏆 How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Next year I will compete in the Mongol Derby, a 1000km race across the Mongolian Desert on semi wild horses, with the aim of raising $100k for charity.
I’ve just been signed by a talent agency and will be focusing more on motivational speaking within the mental health sector.
🤕 How do you recover, rest and handle injuries?
Injuries aren't a noble badge of honor. They can take away what you love to do, which is training hard with meaning and passion.
The next time you hear yourself saying “I don’t have time to listen/prepare/recover just ask yourself if you have time to be injured”.
Here are my top tips to bulletproof your body:
Listen to your body. Everyone, no matter their goal, skill set or training experience, should be able to squat, hip hinge, lunge, push, press, and move their body without pain (and by pain, I don’t mean muscular fatigue from training).
If not, then don't just shrug it off as the price of doing business, but rather identify the origin of the change before it leads to injury.
I practiced the Ostrich Manouevre (sticking my head in the sand) for 8 months before I had an X Ray and MRI that confirmed my “tight hips” were in fact disguising two labral tears and degenerative osteoarthritis that required a complete hip replacement.
Prepare your body for movement. A warm-up isn't an excuse to BS your way through arbitrary foam rolling, it's an opportunity to make your training more efficient and effective.
A solid dynamic warmup primes the nervous system, addresses structural imbalances, identifies potential weaknesses and reinforces correct movement patterns. Imbalance = injury.
If a significant contralateral imbalance exists, perform a 2:1 ratio of a mobility flow – start and end with the tight side.
Program recovery. I liken your body to a bank balance. Every training session is a withdrawal. Every recovery session is a deposit.
If you’re always training and withdrawing and never recovering or depositing, eventually you’ll end up overdrawn and injured.
My favorite recovery practices include infra red saunas, massage, Epsom Salt Baths, foam rolling and listening to a podcast on a long walk outside.
🍎 How is your diet and what supplements do you use?
I’m definitely more relaxed than people would assume when it comes to my diet.
I like nutrition to be as stressfree as possible. This is why I don’t often encourage calorie counting. Having to measure food can be really overwhelming for some people, and it can also highlight restriction, which can be damaging for those with an already unhealthy relationship with food.
Eating well doesn’t have to be rocket science. Eat when you’re hungry, eat until you’re almost full and my biggest rule, if a food doesn’t make you feel good, don’t eat it.
👍 What has inspired and motivated you?
There is no one thing that has inspired or motivated – I love stories that document people overcoming incredible obstacles.
When I was in hospital with my hip, my favorite quote was “the comeback is always greater than the setback”, and it’s something I reminded myself of daily.
When I was in LA, I met Sebastien Terry, the author of “100 Things” which is essentially the story of him achieving his bucket list – his philosophy that you deserve a life nothing less than extraordinary, is something I aspire to.
I’m less inspired by fitness related content these days, and more inspired by people trying to help others – I’m the person who walks into a coffee shop and buys the next person in line a coffee hoping that they will pay it forward.
The biggest piece of advice I’ve ever received is that “no one ever regrets being kind.”
Accounts that I find inspiring on social include @tombilyeu, @steven, @markmanson and @lisamessenger, @imperfectlyperfectcampaign
✏️ Advice for other people who want to improve themselves?
I think my biggest piece of advice when it comes to starting out on your fitness journey is to know what your objective is because that will ultimately determine how you train, eat and live.
If you don’t have a goal, how do you put together a plan of attack and then how do you measure success?
I think people also need to realize that health and fitness is a very individualized process – what works for your best mate won’t necessarily work for you.
🤝 Are you taking on clients right now?
I’m currently focusing on 1:1 face to face clients. I don’t really enjoy online training as I am very “hands on” and like the physical interaction.
However, I am developing an online program that I will release through my website later this year.
📝 Where can we learn more about you?
The best way to see what I’m up to is through Instagram @actionalexa.
My website is alexatowersey.com.
💬 Alexa Towersey quotes
Alexa shares some great, motivating insights in this interview. Feel free to share these quotes on your Instagram, Pinterest and so on 😍